February 22, 2008

Tumbler, part 5

Posted in Tumbler tagged , , at 5:21 pm by jewelrybyleyla

I went through the tumblers today. Lots of progress and fun stuff.

The small tumbler, to recap, has a batch of rocks in it that has gone through a minimum of 2 weeks and up to 3-4 weeks. Then they spent 2 weeks in a medium grit. Today, I took them out of the medium grit, washed them up in borax for a few hours. Now they are rolling in a fine grit (Step 3). From here, often the ‘recipe’ of how to tumble rocks changes. Some people use a 500 grit, then a 1000 grit pre-polish, and then finally a polish with grains that are finer than 1000 grit. Additionally, there’s a couple of different pre-polishing compounds, and 3-4 different polishing compounds available on the market. Assuming that you don’t rush the first steps or two, and use care not to cross contaminate the coarser grits with the finer ones, its possible to get a great polish with just a fine (500 grit) and a polish (1000 grit). So that’s the process I’m going to be using. Here’s a picture before they were washed up.

Finished w. step 2

The larger tumbler has been running a coarse grit (Step 1) since it started tumbling. Each week, I go through it, and take out the rocks that are nicely shaped and have no nicks or cracks. As the rocks tumble, roll, and shape a fair amount of material is broken down into smaller particles, whether they are sand grain sized, or finer (clay), or just into smaller chunks. All this constitutes as material loss, so if you start with a softball sized hunk of material, you might come back with only enough material for a baseball (or less). Last week, I decided not to do a full inspection, but because of the material loss, I did add some more rocks. When I opened up the tumbler today, I was met with quite a mess. Something I put in last week had a ton of fractures or was generally softer than the agates and jaspers that are currently in the tumbler. There was a small handful of chips of rock. And while you need all sorts of sizes in order to get the best tumbling action, the mixture I pulled out today was just insane. So I sorted through the rocks, and pulled out the ones that have been rounded to my satisfaction. And I restarted the tumbler on the course stage with more rocks. Hopefully this week there won’t be so many shattered bits. And now for the pictures….The finished rocks has a bunch of Sodalite in it. The Sodalite was in the smaller tumbler, up until two weeks ago when I moved things around to start some rocks in the second stage. So they tumbled for a couple of weeks in the small tumbler in coarse grit, and then another week in the large tumbler to finish up stage 1. They will be in the next batch going into stage 2 whether its the small tumbler or the big one, as they’re for a custom order. One is a bit fuzzy due to the weather clouding up and it being a bit cold and my hands shaking. But you get the idea.

Finished stage 1 back for more

Each time I add new rocks to the tumbler, I think “I should take a picture of the rough rocks to give y’all an idea of what I start with.” And why exactly it takes 2-4 weeks to get rounded rocks… Today I still had my camera with me outside when I went to break up more rocks (usually I take it back inside as soon as I’m done sorting). So here’s a picture of what the rocks look like after I beat them to death with my rock hammer. Many folks do this step with a saw (a trim saw for rocks, or a tile saw with a diamond blade), and they can get some cool shapes or just round some of the corners off so they don’t have to spend as long in the tumbler to become rounded. That’s a frozen OJ concentrate container in the corner for scale. Most of these rocks started out about fist sized before they were broken up.

rough rock

As always, check back next week to see the progress that’s been made. And check my Etsy store to see what I’ve made from previous batches.



  1. Ginger said,

    What an interesting process. These are so beautiful!

  2. Thanks! I figure the rocks in that top picture are 2-3 weeks from being done. I can’t wait myself… I want more stuff to play with!

  3. Bridget said,

    Thank you for sharing, very interesting post. Your jewelry is lovely. Amethyst Dreams is beautiful. I did a painting once with the same name.

  4. nicole said,

    I am now so inspired to go out and buy another double-barrel so I can actually tumble ROCKS instead of just jewelry! I have a huge collection to polish too 😀

  5. LOL. I use that as my excuse not to make chain maille, I’d have to give up one of my tumblers to tumble the maille for the proper shine.

  6. What a great illustration of how the tumbler works. Thanks for sharing this on your blog!

  7. Morgan said,

    I LOOVE my rock tumbler…unfortunately it is broken right now. I went to costa rica with my family and brought back a really awesome rock collection of stones i found while walking on the beach. I am hoping to use them in my jewelry!

    nice blogging 🙂

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